Venue: Paradise in The Vault
Should the party be called Social Justice, Gladius (Latin for sword) or The Righteous Brotherhood? What shall we do about China? Does anyone actually know where Armenia is? These are just some of the questions that face a group of five students as they try and form a new political party on the principles of democracy and a space programme. Tom Basden’s script is full of easy laughs and moments of ensemble comedy brilliance, and this amateur production exploits the majority of them to great effect. A smattering of loose moments serve to spotlight the broadly tidy and clearly well-rehearsed production that moves along at an astutely measured pace.
Meeting in the summerhouse of the Party’s would-be prime-minister, Pheobe, Jonesy, Jared and Mel attempt to write their manifesto and come up with foreign policy, quite literally one country at a time. Duncan, brought along at the invitation of Jonesy, serves in his ignorance to expose some fundamental flaws in the party model, like the lack of any clear founding principals or agreement thereupon. Quasi-dictator and ‘lethario’ Jared’s priority is promoting political participation, as long as it’s in the form of votes for the Party under his leadership, and Mel is more concerned about the integrity of her fellow party members as they debate whether to drink the unfair trade coffee now that it’s been brewed. Jonesy and Phoebe sit in the middle and do their best to mediate.
It’s an excellent script for a cast and director to bring the best out of each other, and Alistair Lyons, sitting in the chair, gets cues and tonal shifts moving with purpose. The cast are a charming and talented bunch, with Sophy Dexter’s warm and comprehensive Phoebe winning the biggest laughs. Jamie Gordon’s Duncan is also well pitched. Jack Smail, Will Jones and Alice Palmer put in similarly strong displays and, vitally, look to be enjoying working their craft as Jared, Jonesy and Mel respectively. There are nerves and a few garbled lines in the opening minutes but by the time the five are debating with ironic nuance Britain’s relationship with America, everything has settled and is moving with flair.
A topical voting cock-up in a leadership election provides opportunity for more fun interaction, and re-enforces that the cast work best when working off each other in a light and intelligent piece of satirical theatre which holds its own alongside bigger venues and budgets.